This first blog post is coming from the Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah. We are getting officially oriented in one hour. We want to thank you all, friends and family alike, for your interest in following our Adventure in India. It feels like a lot of support to us and like we won’t be all alone over there. Feel free to make comments, ask questions, forward this to anyone you want. This is a public blog.
We did enjoy visiting with some of our grandkids lately. Getting a glimpse into how they see the world can be enlightening. I noticed that all of our 4-year old grandson’s prayers included the petition to “help Grandma and Grandpa sell their house.” When I shared that we had finally sold our home, he said, “Grandma, my mom and dad both went on their missions before they bought a house. You and Grandpa should have gone on your mission before you bought yours—then you wouldn’t have had to sell it!”
Here is a conversation with our 7-year old grandson: “Grandma” “Yes” “You and Grandpa are going to be in India for 18 months! That is a long time! And you won’t be able to come see us! Why would you do that?” That is the question I would like to explore in this post.
We have discussed the possibility of a senior mission for many years. We share a desire to serve and feel an obligation to share our blessings with others. We have explored many options from humanitarian or self-reliance, mental health to Church Education, as there are many different types of missions for senior couples. The Church’s website has a 15 page listing of current opportunities for anyone to see, along with the approximate cost of serving in all the places around the world, ranging from around $1500/month to $4000/month. The cost of senior missions varies a lot, as we pay actual expenses in most cases. However, there is a place in the application where you put down how much you want to pay and we are told that will not be exceeded. There is also a place where you can indicate your mission preference.
It was last March when we decided the time was right to go on a mission this year. We studied the possibilities, quickly filled out the papers, had the necessary medical procedures and interviews, and submitted everything to the church in April. The wait for our call lasted 5/6 weeks. However, since we had decided that this was a good time to downsize our home, we were busy getting it ready to sell. Also, since my husband had decided to retire from consulting and suspend much of his writing/teaching/counseling practice while we are gone, he had lots to do to get everything in place to make this happen. Saying goodbye to my seminary kids was hard, but I had told them from the beginning of the year that we may be going on a mission the next year. And now it was true!
The call came May 23. What a surprise—a member leader support mission to New Delhi, India! As senior missionaries, we had indicated a request, but of course we can’t see the big picture nor do we have the Lord’s perspective, so it shouldn’t have been so surprising that the call was different than our request. But India! We hadn’t really thought of that as an option. We started reading about India and the church in India and it wasn’t too long before we were getting excited about our upcoming adventure in such a fascinating place—home to almost 1.3 billion people.
The ancient Indus River Valley civilization was flourishing 4500 years ago, at the same time as ancient Egypt and Babylonia. Hinduism, the oldest religion in the world, is native to India and also the most common with 80% of Indians following its practices. Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism also all originated in India. About 14% of Indians are Muslims while only 2% are Christian—about 24 million--of which 12,000 are Mormons. Just for comparison sake, I googled how many Mormons there are in Colorado—over 150,000!
But back to our grandson’s question of why we want to go on a mission: One thing I have learned over the years is that when I am doing what the Lord wants me to, I am happier—my life works better—I feel more purpose in my life—I feel more inner peace. Now what the Lord wants me to be doing has changed over the years. When I was younger, I remember the feelings I got attending Mutual and seminary, participating in service projects, helping around the house. When our kids were little, I remember the feelings I had being with them—reading to them, playing with them, watching them play, watching them sleep. When I went to help with our first grandchild, the Lord affirmed to me again the importance of these little ones. And being in the church gives us endless possibilities to serve--sometimes the Lord has wanted me to be with the children, sometimes teaching Young Women or Sunday school or Relief Society or Seminary. I have learned and grown through them all.
But for some reason yet unknown to us, I know that right now the Lord wants us to go to India on a mission. He let me know that soon after our call. I recorded it in my journal just in case there are times I need to “remember” it. Through my past experiences, I know that there is nothing else that compares to the feeling of being useful to the Spirit. I have also gotten a taste of what it means to be renewed by the Spirit and carried by the Spirit. There have been a few miracles already, making this mission to India possible. One example is our visas--not only did our missionary visas come a month early, but instead of being 1-year visas requiring renewal which sometimes doesn’t happen, we were granted 5-year visas! But don’t worry, we are planning on coming home after 18 months.
We are encouraged to reread the Book of Mormon before coming here to the MTC. It’s been a very interesting experience. I’ve noticed a lot of new things—you’d think I was entering a new phase of life! For example, in 3 Nephi 15 and 16, I noticed how often Jesus said, “The Father commanded me to…” and I’ve come to realize that the impressions we receive from the Spirit could be termed commandments—personalized commandments--that when followed bring great blessings into our lives. And as we hear each week in the Sacrament prayers, we need to always remember Him and keep ‘the commandments’ He has given us so we can always have His Spirit to be with us. Not only does the Spirit bring us comfort, hope, joy, and peace, but is the way we receive those personalized commandments of things both to do and not to do. You can be sure that we plan to be strictly obedient on our mission as we feel the need for guidance and protection.
I have a new appreciation for how the Jaredites might have felt—preparing their barges, then entering into them and trusting in the Lord to get them to where He wanted them to be. I know the Lord wants us to go on a mission to India and is preparing a way for us to do what He wants us to do but I sure don’t know the what’s and the how’s. It reminds me of a saying I heard a few years ago: “There is little comfort in the growing zone and little growing in the comfort zone.” I think we are entering a growing phase of life.
We want to thank our four kids who surprised us by all coming to spend our last weekend home with us. And especially thank their supportive spouses who stayed home and watched our 15 grandkids. Those of you who have been around us lately know that our brains pretty much turned off a month ago—it’s kind of an interesting experience to watch them slowly come back. Our kids were sure we had picked up on one or two things they had said to us and knew of their plans to surprise us—but no. We’re not picking up on much of anything right now.
One brother in our church congregation who has now served two senior missions recently shared with us that to have a successful senior mission, it’s helpful to be patient, flexible and humble. Patience is something I’ve studied multiple times in my life because I’m not a natural at it. The first time I studied it I was in my 30’s and came to understand that when I was impatient, I was judging—that something or someone should be different than what it is. The next time I studied patience, my understanding deepened and I realized that impatience is showing a lack of faith in the Lord and His timetable. I’m sure I still have much to learn about patience and look forward to what the kind and gentle Indian people will teach me about this important attribute. And likewise I’m sure I have much potential growth in my understanding and practice of being flexible--and becoming humble is a life-long pursuit for me. Like I said, growing phase—here we come! Prayers on our behalf are welcome!